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It still sucks that our Mom died when we were both still in our twenties. But, these phone conversations with my brother are becoming some of my life’s most sacred moments.


“Hey, Mattie. Thanks for calling me back.”

I sit on a garden bench, behind a mansion-turned-Yale-administrative building, concealed from the casual observer by clematis vines. As I lean further back into my verdant hiding place, my “e’s” and “a’s” ascend up my nose and echo in my nasal cavities. The carefully enunciated speech I use daily at Yale—the speech that others sometimes mistake as an English person’s when I’m either very nervous, or just trying to create polite, social distance at cocktail parties—begins to relax, nestling itself into a warm, Northeastern Ohio twang.

My words instinctively know that I have no need for nerves or polite social distance as I sit concealed by clematis vines. I’m speaking with my younger brother. And, concealing myself from the once little boy, who used to wipe boogers on me, is a very unwise thing to do. Especially, since that little boy is now a competent, gentle young man.

We talk about his forthcoming visit, maritime history, human psychology, and his friends. Subjects we have often touched upon in previous phone conversations. But, now that our Mom has been dead for exactly a year, our conversations also explore something else: family management. We talk about how our Dad and our 93 year-old Grandmother are actually doing, comparing conversations, trading observations, voicing concerns, and brainstorming solutions (if necessary). We also cry (me more than him) while uttering reflections about our Mom. Reflections only we two would understand, because we were her children.

The more we speak to each other in this way, the more I believe that we are creating a form of healthy communication we shall use with each other for the rest of our lives. We will only continue to make decisions about how to maintain and ensure our family’s well-being, property, and monetary assets as Dad and Grandma continue to age. I’m glad that we’re building this strong, open report now. I find that hard decisions become less difficult if you’re making them with someone you love, trust, and understand.

It still sucks that our Mom died when we were both still in our twenties. But, these phone conversations with my brother are becoming some my life’s most sacred moments. For through them, I see time shrink, merge, and fall away. Mattie is 24, and I, 28—a four-year age gap differentiating our life experiences. A huge chasm in our youth, especially during his booger-wiping phase, that is a chasm no longer. This young man on the other end of the phone and I seem to share more and more as we age. Though he has Mom’s coloring and I have Dad’s, we share our Mom’s cheekbones, eye sockets, and weirdly Romanesque nose. Though he is a mechanical engineer that specializes in historical machines and I am a librarian who specializes in Christian theology, we both deal with creating mechanized order and preserving history in our careers. Though he was socialized as a male and I a female, we have socialized each other to appreciate compassionate men and self-sufficient women. And between us, we have cultivated a penchant for Jane Austen, the Sandman comics, video games, British sitcoms, hiking, classical literature, sailing, and history.

But, most importantly, Mattie and I share the deep pain of losing our Mom, and, the responsibility of loving our family well in her absence.

I tell Mattie this, all of this, and he is quiet for a long time. “Well you know Sis, the universe always has a way of balancing itself out.”

It is my turn to be silent as I stare up into the sky, letting Mattie’s words properly seep into my thoughts. The sky is thick and dense with flat gray clouds. Yet, a rainbow gracefully arches across those clouds, its colors made even more vivid by the stark gray background.  A spray of water hits my cheeks, I only now realize it is raining, and I look up—higher—into the sky. This rainbow has a twin. A quiet echo of itself in color and shape.

“Yes Mattie, I must agree with you. The Universe does have a way of balancing itself out.”